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Countdown to the P.E. exam - Part 1

Wednesday 12th, October 2016

Tim Howe

Okay folks, the P.E. exam is now officially three weeks away.

That’s right, in three weeks from today, the sun will be shining, the birds will be singing… and you’ll be sitting in an overcrowded and stuffy hall completing a two-hour P.E. exam. That’s the joy of being a Year 12 student, hey?

It all sounds pretty gloomy, but on the upside in three weeks’ time you can forget all about energy system interplay, VicHealth and the social-ecological model (thank goodness).

So, to celebrate that, here are my top tips to help you succeed!

1. Know your own Weaknesses

To be honest, this is probably the thing I found hardest about studying – acknowledging my own weaknesses.

It’s really tempting to just go and study or do questions on the things you know really well. It sends your self-confidence through the roof and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Unfortunately, VCAA are not really know for being warm and fuzzy type of people, and they probably won’t make the exam all about areas that you (and other students) know really well. In fact, they’re much more likely to focus on areas that students don’t do very well on. Mean, hey?

So make sure you identify the bits of the course that you might have skimmed over a bit throughout the year, and don’t know as well as you thought. And then – and this is the important bit – make sure you go and do some work on them. It sucks at the time, and it might leave you feeling like you’re not as on top of things as you thought. But trust me, you’ll be better off come exam time if you’ve brushed up on those weaknesses than if you just keep going over your strengths.

2. Do Practice Exams!

So yes, everyone has their own ways of revising. Personally, I used chapter summaries (which are pretty boring). Other people use cool flash cards with lots of colour and flair. Others use verbal recording. Everybody is different and different ways work better for different people.

But I’m here to tell you that not all ways of revising are equal. Some ways are more effective than others. End of story.

There’s a strong correlation between doing practice exams and getting higher grades. Generally, the more practice exams people do, the better that they go.

Practice exams are great for a number of reasons. Firstly, and probable most importantly, they allow you to see which type of questions come up time after time, in nearly every practice exam (hint: think energy interplay). If you are able to identify these recurring questions, you can ensure you have these concepts absolutely down pat. Then, if these questions come up in the real exam (which is highly likely), you’ll be grinning and writing while everyone else if looking around in bemusement, or crying softly to themselves.

Practice exams also give you a chance to see those real ‘oddball’ questions that only come up every now and then. Sometimes you’ll just get a question that you have no idea about. Although you’ll feel pretty dumb, this is actually really useful as you can read the answer provided (and go back and read your textbook) and find out what the examiners actually wanted. The more exams you do, the more weird questions you come across and the more chance you know the answer to the really tough one on the P.E. exam.

P.E. exam

There are a number of different strategies you can use on the exam. Do you work from front to back, start with the multiple-choice or the short-answer, or start with the tougher questions? It doesn’t really matter too much (just don’t over-complicate it) but practice exams give you a chance to work out your strategy and try it a few times before the real thing.

Finally, practice exams are great to give you a sense of timing. If you’re a pretty quick thinker and scribbler, you shouldn’t have too many worries with the P.E. exam. If you’re someone that likes to contemplate a bit more, or like to write really neat (a word of advice, you don’t get marked on your neatness – as long as it’s legible you’re okay), then you might be pushed a bit more. Regardless, practice exams give you an idea of how you’ll go for time on the exam.

So everybody should be doing practice exams, whether you like them or not. They are a brilliant and highly effective way of revising. They are also as close as you will get to doing the real thing!

If, like me, your preferred way of revising is to do practice exams, then great! Aim to do heaps – such as 10 or 15 for each subject. If practice exams aren’t your go, that’s okay too. But I strongly suggest that you do at least the last few VCAA P.E. exams. Trust me, you’ll be grateful for it.

3. Effort Brings Reward

Let’s be honest. P.E., in all its glory, is not one of the most difficult subjects going around. One of the most fun? Definitely. One of the hardest? Probably not.

Due to this, there’s a tendency amongst students to treat P.E. as a bit of a bludge subject, both throughout the year and before the exam.
Rather than let these students drag you down, this can actually be great news. If there’s lots of students not putting much effort into P.E., it means that you are more likely to get a higher study score (provided you put the work in).

So don’t let P.E. become a bludge subject. It’s a really good opportunity for many students to score really well. Be brave. Aim high. Who says you can’t get a 40, a 45, or even a 50? P.E. is a great opportunity to get that really high score that can give your ATAR a mega-boost. At the end of the day, if you put in the work, you will get the reward. If you bludge, then you miss a great opportunity.

4. Know the Basics Well

Right now, the best thing you can be doing when you’re studying is making sure you know the basics well. If you can get them down pat, you’ll be much better off. Learn the basics now and then, in the week (or longer) leading up to the exam, you can be focused on learning the trickier little details, while everyone else is still stressing over the names of the fitness components.

A lot of the exam will be based around pretty basic content knowledge. VCAA, while being pretty mean sometimes, are not going to throw 120 marks worth of super-specific, difficult details at you. So if you want to do well, you don’t really want to be dropping many (if any) marks on easy questions. Know the basics well, and you won’t. In fact, knowing the basics is probably three-quarters of the exam. There’s no point knowing really useful details about things if you can’t explain it in a couple of sentences first.

So learn the basics now – and then for the last couple of weeks you can learn those cool little details that’ll boost you from a B to an A+!

5. Know the P.E. Exam

It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but knowing the specifications of the exam is definitely really useful.

If you know what’s coming and you’ve prepared for it, you’ll feel a whole lot less nervous about facing the beast when you have to.
The best way to do this is to go and have a look at VCAA’s past exams. From 2011 onwards, they’re all relevant to the current study design, so you’ve got plenty to work with.

To give a brief summary, the P.E. exam consists of 15 minutes of reading time (which will feel like forever) followed by two hours of writing time, where you can actually do the exam. It’ll have 15 multi-choice questions, worth one mark each, followed by roughly 15 short-answer questions, which will total 105 marks. So overall there’s 120 marks – one per minute.

You’re allowed to bring in pens (black or blue), highlighters, pencils, rubbers, rulers and sharpeners. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed a calculator. It’s also not open book (damn!).

Good luck and have fun studying over the next few weeks!

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